Nike has pulled the plug on their limited-edition patriotically themed sneaker, also being referred to as the “Betsy Ross Sneaker.” The shoes sport a 13-star Revolutionary era flag on the heel and were slated for a July 4th release. The decision came as a result of NFL star and Nike spokesperson Colin Kaepernick’s feedback that the imagery is offensive.
Kaepernick advised the brand not to release the shoe, citing the inclusion of a flag from a period of US history that included slavery as not warranting celebration. According to Kaepernick the Revolutionary era flag is a symbol of the oppression and racism from that time.
Nike just released a statement explaining their decision thusly:
“Nike made the decision to halt distribution of the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July based on concerns that it could unintentionally offend and detract from the nation’s patriotic holiday. Nike is a company proud of its American heritage and our continuing engagement supporting thousands of American athletes.”
The cancellation came abruptly for retailers who had already received the sneakers and were prepping for their launch. Although Nike requested the shoes be returned to them, some have already made it to the resale market and are going for thousands of dollars at auction.
The brand’s concern its design could offend has kicked up dust among different political circles. First with Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and then Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Ducey tweeted he would be pulling financial incentives for a Nike manufacturing plant reportedly set to be built in the state. In a nine tweet long thread he said:
“Instead of celebrating American history the week of our nation’s independence, Nike has apparently decided that Betsy Ross is unworthy, and has bowed to the current onslaught of political correctness and historical revisionism. … Arizona’s economy is doing just fine without Nike. We don’t need to suck up to companies that consciously denigrate our nation’s history.”
Senator Cruz piggybacked by tweeting his own disapproval and plans to boycott Nike products. He urged others to follow suit with the hashtag #WalkAwayFromNike.
This could potentially mark the second boycott Nike has faced due to Kaepernick in less than 2 years. In 2018 the brand launched a “Just do it” ad with Kaepernick’s face and the quote, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.” The ad was referencing the athlete’s protest of the National Anthem at games. As a result a boycott of the brand was launched, but quickly fizzled out.
Kaepernick has been signed to Nike since he first entered the NFL as a quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers. He first sparked controversy for his social activism in 2016 when he began kneeling rather than standing for the “Star Spangled Banner” at games. He explained it was a protest against racial injustices and oppression in the US. The following year, Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers but was unable to sign with another team. He suspected this was due to his political activism and subsequently filed grievance with the NFL which has since reached a settlement.
For his part, Kaepernick has stated in the past that he will continue protesting until “The American flag represents what it’s supposed to represent.”